Why is dairy cruel?
The short answer: Standard cruelties throughout the dairy industry include forcing cows to grossly overproduce milk, stealing baby calves from their mothers, killing the cows when young, and killing the male calves when even younger.
In nature, cows produce enough milk for their calves. It makes no sense for them to be carrying significant amounts of milk that cannot be drunk. Years and years of intensive genetic manipulation has created dairy cow breeds that produce three to five times more milk than cattle in the wild. With hormones, this number may be pushed up even further, to ten times the normal amount of milk.
Furthermore, dairies impregnate cows earlier and more often than would occur in most wild breeds.
Being forced to carry such huge amounts of milk causes pain in the cows, and robs them of calcium and other nutrients. It also requires that the cows be milked more often, which in turn may increase the risk of painful udder infections – the source of pus in the milk supply.
Cows are normally doting mothers. They nurture, nuzzle, and give milk to their calves. The calves stay close to their mothers’ sides and derive immense emotional support from the relationship. This is all ruined in dairy.
On nearly all commercial dairy operations, baby calves are taken from their mothers. They are deprived of the love, comfort, joy, and confidence-building that comes from growing up with a mother. They also miss out on the attention from adult cows in the herd, who babysit the youngsters. Calves on dairies are sequestered from their mothers and their families; they are effectively orphaned.
The mother cows whose babies have been taken from them often cry out for days. This is documented and admitted by dairy farmers and supporters. Since cows display emotions in many other ways, and since they undergo hormonal changes during pregnancy, it is likely that they remember the trauma of loosing their babies stays with them for a long time.
On average, cows have to endure this loss – this theft – two to four times before being killed.
The male offspring of dairy cows cannot produce milk and have not been specially bred for the beef industry. Many are killed when only a few months old as veal. Veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry. In the worst cases, the male calves are chained, confined to tiny pens where they may have to lay in their own waste, and fed a borderline anemic diet to make their flesh white.
Some male calves are killed right away, as newborns. Sometimes their umbilical cords are still attached as they enter the slaughterhouse. The “lucky” males may be raised for their flesh and get to live a little over a year.
Male calves may be sold at auctions – noisy arenas in which the calves, sometimes still wet from birth and surely longing for the warmth and milk of their mothers, are paraded and pushed around and sold to buyers who prepare them for slaughter.
Note that some female calves may be raised and killed as veal, also. The US dairy herd is declining (in part because the dairy industry manages, through genetic manipulation, to coax more and more milk out of cows), and dairy cows – as a result of being artificially impregnated – give birth to more female calves than are needed to replace the cows who are killed. The excess calves – male and female – are killed, or sold off to be killed shortly therafter.
When dairy cows can no longer produce the huge volumes of milk to be profitable, they’re killed. Usually this happens when they’re about five years old. On organic farms they may live another year (and have another baby stolen from them). If a dairy cow cannot get pregnant, she’s also killed. Cows’ natural lifespan is 20-25 years.